Wed, Jun 06, 2007
The long, strange trip NASA's Dawn spacecraft has travelled to
reach the stars took another unexpected detour this week, as NASA
announced a broken launch pad crane will delay the probe's planned
June 30 launch by at least one week.
Florida Today reports NASA halted the countdown for Dawn last
week, after a crane at launch pad 17A broke down. The crane is used
to hoist the stages of the Delta II launch vehicle (shown above),
as well as the spacecraft itself, into position.
Fortunately, the breakdown caused no damage to the launch
vehicle, or Dawn itself... but the needed repairs to the crane will
mean a liftoff date sometime in early July. The actual date
has not been finalized.
It isn't the first time the Dawn mission has hit a snag. As Aero-News reported, NASA
cancelled the mission outright in March 2006 -- after delaying it
in January -- citing cost overruns, budgetary woes, and technical
faults that plagued the project for years. However, the agency
later granted Dawn a reprieve, after receiving several protests
from the scientific community.
Once it is eventually launched, Dawn will visit the asteroids
Ceres and Vesta, contained in an asteroid belt between Mars and
Jupiter. They are two of the largest such bodies in the solar
system, and scientists hope the two heavenly bodies will reveal
clues about the formation of the solar system.
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